College Football Betting: LSU Preseason Predictions

Steve -

Sunday, May 18, 2014 4:33 PM UTC

Sunday, May. 18, 2014 4:33 PM UTC

Were you able to profit off of LSU in the 2013 college football season? Take a look at the betting results for 2013, as well as some tips and predictions to betting LSU in the upcoming season.

"Death Valley, where opponents’ dreams come to die." You might recognize that quote from LSU head football coach, Les Miles. That is exactly what savvy sports bettors want to hear: popular hyperbole about the home field advantage at the “deadliest” of stadiums. The reality is that, under Miles’ nine years at LSU, the Tigers beat the spread at a rate of just 42.42% at Home. Death Valley is more like where your LSU money comes to die. In fact, had you wagered $110 (to win $100) on LSU in every Home game played under Les Miles, you would have $1,380 less today. Armed with similar quantitative realities, this article is a college football betting preview of the 2014-2015 LSU Tigers.

LSU’s Les Miles Against-the-Spread (ATS)
As Les Miles enters his tenth year coaching the Tigers, he carries an unprofitable 47.83% ATS winning record at LSU. Mentioned earlier, his 42.42% ATS winning rate in Home games might come as a surprise to those unacquainted with college football betting. The savvy bettor knows that popular college football strengths are often sports-betting traps. For LSU bettors, paraphrasing Oscar Wilde works well here: The only thing better than playing in Death Valley is NOT playing in Death Valley. Under Miles, the Tigers are 55% ATS when NOT playing at Home. LSU with Les Miles is even more interesting when you compare their Southeastern Conference (SEC) games to their non-conference games. Against SEC opponents, the Tigers are a poor 42.47% ATS overall, and an even worse 32.43% ATS at Home in conference games. When “The Mad Hatter” faces non-conference foes, however, his Tigers are an impressive 57.14% ATS. Do heed this statistical warning: In out-of-conference (OOC) games in Death Valley, Miles is 55.56% ATS, but since September of 2008, the Hatter is just 33.33% ATS in those OOC Home games.

The Power of Expectations
As a general (admitted) oversimplification, betting lines are driven by expectations. Expectations for LSU football are always high, and that goes a long way to explain why LSU bettors have lost 55.51% of their games ATS since Miles and his Tigers last won a National Championship. Even with the loss of some serious marquee players (discussed below), LSU has the eighth-shortest odds to win the 2015 National Championship at 20.75-to-1, according to Pinnacle, and the seventh-shortest odds at 16-to-1, according to Bovada (at the time of this writing). Although top-10 shortest National Championship futures odds do not equate top-10 Preseason AP Poll ranking, the odds are certainly an indicator of public perception. Such short odds do not bode well for the Tigers in 2014 ATS.

Aside from preseason ranking or futures odds, following our guidelines for the ideal ATS conditions for college football teams heading into any season (found in Conditions for Profitable College Football Betting), you should also look for teams to be coming off of an unprofitable ATS season. LSU was an unsuccessful 41.67% ATS in 2013. That might help LSU ATS in 2014, but you also want a team to improve on the number of straight-up  (SU) wins from the prior season.

Schedule Matters
In 2013, LSU won 10 games SU. To get to at least 11 SU wins (the minimum required to improve) would mean that LSU could only lose twice (and that is assuming they play in at least one more game: a likely Bowl game and/or another possible SEC Championship game). Take a look at LSU’s 2014 schedule below, and see if you can justify 10-11 SU wins:





NOTES (LSU Under Les Miles)


Wisconsin (AdvoCare Texas Kickoff)

Houston, TX (NRG Stadium)

The season opens with a well-coached, but gutted, Wisconsin team at a “neutral” site (just four driving hours from LSU, but four FLYING hours from Madison). LSU is 2-1 SU vs. the B1G, but 1-2 ATS. In neutral site games, the Tigers are 8-3 SU and 7-4 ATS. In season openers, LSU is 6-3 ATS including 4-1 ATS in season-opening games NOT played in Death Valley.


Sam Houston State

Baton Rouge, LA (Tiger Stadium)

Against FCS schools, LSU is 5-0 SU, but just 1-4 ATS.



Baton Rouge, LA (Tiger Stadium)

The Tigers last faced UL-Monroe in 2010 when LSU easily covered the 33.5-point spread, winning 51-0.


Mississippi State

Baton Rouge, LA (Tiger Stadium)

LSU is 9-0 SU and 6-3 ATS (2-2 ATS @Home) vs. MSU. LSU is just 1-8 ATS in SEC Home openers.


New Mexico State

Baton Rouge, LA (Tiger Stadium)

LSU is 8-8 ATS in non-conference games played in between SEC contests, but just 2-6 ATS in their last eight such matchups.



Auburn, AL (Jordan-Hare Stadium)

LSU is 7-2 SU, but just 3-6 ATS vs. Auburn; that includes going 1-3 ATS 'On The Plains.' LSU is 5-3-1 ATS in SEC road openers. Notably, two of those three ATS road-opening SEC losses were to Auburn.



Gainesville, FL (Ben Hill Griffin Stadium)

LSU is 5-4 SU, but 3-6 ATS vs. Florida. The Tigers are 1-3 both SU and ATS in The Swamp.



Baton Rouge, LA (Tiger Stadium)

LSU is 2-1 SU and 1-2 ATS vs. Kentucky. LSU was favored by double-digits in all three contests.


Ole Miss  (Homecoming)

Baton Rouge, LA (Tiger Stadium)

LSU is 6-3 SU, but just 3-6 ATS vs. Ole Miss. The Tigers are 0-4 ATS vs. the Rebs in Death Valley.


Alabama  (Senior Day)

Baton Rouge, LA (Tiger Stadium)

LSU is 8-1 SU, but an abysmal 1-7-1 ATS in final Home games. The Tigers are 6-4-1 ATS after a bye week, including an impressive 4-1-1 ATS when playing the Tide after a bye. (The lone ATS loss was last year.) Incidentally, when playing Alabama NOT after a single bye week, LSU is 0-4 ATS. Bama is the last team to beat LSU SU in Death Valley.



Fayetteville, AR (Razorback Stadium)

LSU is 6-3 SU, but just 2-7 ATS vs. Arkansas. The Tigers are 1-4 ATS in Fayetteville.

11/27/2014 (Thursday)

Texas A&M

College Station, TX (Kyle Field)

LSU is 4-5 SU and 3-6 ATS in final road games of the regular season. LSU is 3-0 both SU and ATS vs. the Aggies.


Star Powered-down
Popular sports are fueled by star power. Certainly, college football is no exception. Stars in sports betting, however, are often fool’s gold. Entering 2014, the Tigers lost the following stars (and some others) from 2013:

1)           Zach Mettenberger- the fourth-best QB in the FBS for 2013 (by QB Rating).

2-3)    Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry- the greatest receiving tandem in LSU history.

4)           Jeremy Hill- arguably, the best running back in the SEC for 2013. Of the eight in the SEC who ran for at least 1,000 yards in 2013, Hill had the best yards-per-carry average.

5)           Lamin Barrow- LSU’s leading tackler in 2013 and a top-10 tackler in the SEC for each of the past two seasons.

Losing such a bevy of known talent has fans concerned, but it should be considered a positive sports-betting element (because it lowers expectations). Besides, four out of the five players mentioned above were offensive players. LSU, under Les Miles, does not need their offense to be so prolific. The most successful ATS season that LSU has had in the past decade was 2011 (when they last played for a National Championship). The Tigers beat the spread at the rate of 71.43% that year, while their total offense ranked just 82nd against FBS competition.

A Freshman Quarterback?
There is a genuine battle in Baton Rouge for the QB spot. The assumed incumbent, sophomore Anthony Jennings, is facing a formidable freshman challenger in Brandon Harris. Since we like our numbers, just ponder these statistics: Through two spring games, part of the 2013 Arkansas game, and the 2014 Outback Bowl, Jennings was 30 of 67 for 436 passing yards, 2 TD’s and 3 INT’s. In just one spring game, Harris doubled the number of TD’s Jennings managed in more than three games. Harris was 11 of 28 for 195 yards, 3 passing TD’s, 1 rushing TD, and 76 rushing yards on 6 carries. Granted, it is a small sample size, but Harris looks to be the best option (no pun intended). Rather than fretting over the prospect of a freshman starting QB, LSU bettors should rejoice. Freshmen players are (at least popularly) unknown quantities. The unknown brings little to no expectations. Consider the season ATS results for some teams led by excellent freshmen QB’s the past six years:






Kellen Moore (Boise State)



Andrew Luck (Stanford)



Danny O’Brien (Maryland)



Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville)



Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M)



Jameis Winston (Florida State)



52-26 (66.67%)


Tiger Tendencies Under Les Miles




  1. When LSU was favored by two to three TD’s, they were 28.57% ATS
  2. The Tigers were just 1-6 (14.29%) ATS when favored by less than a single TD at Home, but 9-4-1 (69.23%) when favored by that same margin, Away.
  3. When LSU’s defense allowed more than 275 passing yards, the Tigers were a measly 25% ATS.
  4. Line Direction: Bettors often believe the direction the betting line has moved (from the opening number to the closing number) is an indication of the right betting side. (If LSU opens as a 7-point favorite, but closes as a 9-point favorite, many think LSU is the correct side because the Tigers became even more of a favorite over time.) For the Hatter’s Tigers, that is not the case. Almost unbelievably, the line movement has indicated the right side EXACTLY 50% of the time. Therefore, read absolutely nothing into betting line movement for typical LSU games.

Preseason Conclusions
The 2015 College Football National Championship will be determined by playing-off four teams chosen by 13 people. For good or ill, this will be the most subjective method of determining the four best teams in college football since before the BCS. Given the extreme subjectivity of the selection process and the fact that we have no data on the results (since this is the first year of the process), we recommend the most conservative approach to your National Championship futures betting. Playing in the SEC helps a lot in the court of public perception, but winning with defense (as LSU often does) might not garner those “style points” that have a psychological impact on people (whether they recognize it or not). Even though the mantra of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee is “transparency,” the nuances of their process is not yet clear even to them. IF they use the NCAA’s method for assessing strength of schedule, then LSU’s schedule ranks 57th. That, too, is unlikely to impress too many people. Since the process is so new and subjective and LSU’s futures odds are so short, our money will not be on LSU to win the National Championship.

LSU is a popularly bet public team. In fact, over the past 10 years, LSU has been involved in 10 of the 100 most-heavily bet games in college football. Public teams like that will rarely have point-spread “value.” The LSU side consistently tends to be inflated at Home. In fact, since Les Miles has been at LSU, the Tigers’ average ATS margin-of-victory (measuring the number of points by which a team beat the spread) in Home games has been 52.56% worse than the total FBS average for Home teams over the same period. Remember, an extraordinary season by a freshman QB could drastically alter LSU’s season ATS results. Even so, IF that is the case, THEN get on the LSU side early (in the season) before the market catches up to that phenomenon. Utilize the ATS information provided above to know when to bet on and when to bet against LSU in 2014. Use informed decisions to avoid being labeled “The Mad Hatter” of college football picks.


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